Academic Integrity Procedures: Dealing with Academic Integrity Violations

The University procedures for dealing with a violation are described in detail at this website: http://www.psu.edu/oue/aappm/G-9-academic-integrity.html. The college policies and procedures can be found here: http://www.hhd.psu.edu/policies/. If you suspect a student has committed an academic integrity violation, you can use those links to inform yourself fully about the relevant academic integrity policies and procedures. Your Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of the academic program and Department Head will help guide you through the process.

In addition, the Associate Dean’s Office is always prepared to help guide you through the process. Simply pick up the phone and call Assistant Dean Doug Ford (3-6790) or Associate Dean Dennis Shea (3-2901) for help. PLEASE REPORT ALL ACADEMIC INTEGRITY VIOLATIONS. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO DETECT REPEATED OFFENDERS

Here are the basic steps for how to handle a suspected violation:

  1. Inform the PIC of the program and the Associate Dean’s Office that you believe you have a violation and seek consultation on the evidence and process. Work with your PIC and Associate Dean’s Office to document the initial evidence to the best of your ability. Discuss what types of sanctions would be appropriate with the violation you think you have identified, should the evidence and student meeting confirm your belief. Work with your PIC and Associate Dean’s Office to prepare an initial draft of the Academic Integrity Form and documentation (see step 4 below) for the student meeting.
    There are two types of sanctions faculty can recommend—academic and disciplinary. Academic sanctions range from simply a warning to a reduced grade on the assignment to the student’s removal from his/her academic program. Disciplinary sanctions are assigned only at the University level by the Office of Student Conduct, not by faculty or the College, who can only make disciplinary sanction recommendations. Disciplinary sanctions can range from disciplinary warning to permanent expulsion. The student may also be assigned the XF grade, which is reserved for the most serious breaches of academic integrity. Sanctioning guidelines are available (http://www.psu.edu/dept/oue/aappm/G-9.pdf).
  2. Contact the student(s) involved and arrange for a face-to-face meeting. A phone meeting is rarely appropriate. If there are multiple students, it is best to meet them separately. The PIC can be available to attend the meeting(s) at the request of the instructor.
  3. Meet with the student(s) and present them with a copy (not the original) of the evidence. State your belief of what has occurred, then give the student an opportunity for their explanation. Discuss the situation with an emphasis on teaching and learning. Even in these situations, we act as faculty, not police, judge or jury. As the University procedures note: “The faculty member informs the student of the allegation while taking into account the confidential nature of the information and the goal of maintaining an environment that supports teaching and learning.”
    You should inform the student that effective immediately they cannot drop the class or withdraw from the university and that if they do, the drop or withdrawal will be reversed by the University. You should also inform them that they should continue to attend and participate in class until the final decision about the situation has been made. Finally, you should let them know their rights, which are described on the Academic Integrity form.
    At the end of the meeting, the faculty member needs to choose an option.
    You can:
    • decide that an academic integrity violation has occurred, and move immediately to making that charge and assigning an appropriate sanction;
    • decide that you need more time to consider the evidence and/or appropriate sanction and set a follow-up meeting with the student;
    • decide that an academic integrity violation has not occurred, in which case, all documentation should be destroyed
  4. At the end of the initial or subsequent meeting(s), in the event you conclude that a violation has occurred, the Academic Integrity Form should be completed and signed by the instructor (http://www.hhdev.psu.edu/policies/docs/academic_integ_form.pdf ). As part of completing that form, you’ll need to recommend a sanction and you should attach a copy of any documentation supporting the violation.
    The instructor has the responsibility to gather information and documentation which indicates in a clear and convincing way that the student's conduct did violate the academic integrity policies of the University. Since criminal law principles do not apply to the academic living-learning environment, the burden is not on the instructor to `prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt', as in the courts. Clear and convincing documentation ("supporting information") typically requires the following conditions to be met:
    If the supporting information is circumstantial, or subjective in nature, then two corroboratory pieces of information are suggested. For example, if a student was observed looking at another student's test during an exam, then a statement by a proctor attesting to this shall constitute a single piece of supporting information. The second piece of information could be the Scantrons from the exams showing a significant number of the same incorrect answers. Single pieces of supporting information are acceptable if they constitute a "smoking gun", e.g., a cheat sheet, possession of two exam copies, formulae programmed into calculators, another student's name appearing on the exam or the same student observed attending two exams at different times. An instructor’s report of direct observation is acceptable evidence.=
    In cases of plagiarism, only copies of the plagiarized material (annotated as needed) will be required as supporting documentation. In cases where the plagiarism is not word for word, the supporting information should provide a clear, and significant, link between the plagiarized works. For example, copies of two similar term papers, lab reports, or projects might show consistent sentence or paragraph structures throughout.
    Always provide documentation, even if it is just a brief paragraph summarizing what you observed. Forms without documentation will be returned to the faculty member. You should have a copy of the form with the documentation for the student and should review the document with the student, letting them know that they have five (5) business days to choose between 2 options—to accept the allegation and sanction or to contest the allegation and sanction. Clearly communicate and assist the student in understanding the process and procedures.
  5. If the student accepts or contests the allegation and signs the form immediately, you should forward the completed form with the original documents showing the violation to the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Outreach, ATTN: Doug Ford, 342 Health and Human Development Building.
  6. If the student chooses to take the copy of the Academic Integrity Form with them to make their decision later, you should remind them of the deadline (5 business days later at 5 P.M.) and forward your copy of the form with the original documents showing the violation to the Associate Dean’s office, informing them of the student’s deadline to respond. If the student fails to respond, they will be considered to have accepted the allegation and sanction, and the Associate Dean’s Office will notify you.
    If the student has accepted the allegation and sanction, the rest of the process is handled by the Associate Dean’s Office. Departments and faculty should not maintain their own independent file. The Associate Dean’s Office will contact the University’s Office of Student Conduct to determine if there have been prior violations by the student. If there is a prior violation, the College Academic Integrity Committee may choose to impose additional sanctions on the student. The instructor may be consulted on additional sanctions.
    If the student contests the sanction, a review will be conducted by the College Academic Integrity Committee. The Committee may review documentary evidence and may choose to hold a hearing or hold one at the request of the student. The student and the faculty member may attend all meetings of the hearing except for the meeting at which the committee renders its decision. The student will be allowed to present relevant evidence. The instructor will articulate his/her accusations and the rationale(s) for the assigned sanction. The committee may question both parties and witnesses. Both the student and faculty member may question witnesses and comment on the evidence. Following the hearing, the committee will examine all evidence/testimony and decide by majority vote whether the student is in violation of the University’s policy and what sanction should be applied. The Associate Dean’s Office will then provide the committee with information on any prior violations from the University’s Office of Student Conduct to determine if there have been prior violations by the student. If there is a prior violation, the College Academic Integrity Committee may choose to impose additional sanctions on the student. The instructor may be consulted on additional sanctions.

In summary, state your academic integrity policy clearly, connect it to the larger ethical expectations of your field, and emphasize it repeatedly. Design your evaluative assignments to make academic integrity violations more difficult. Take advantage of the resources available to detect it. And, finally, when detected, work with your PIC and the College to follow appropriate policies and procedures and report it. If you handle academic integrity violations on your own without reporting it to the Dean’s Office, serial violators continue to escape notice and sanction.